# Wikipedia:Responsible tagging

When a Wikipedian who practices responsible tagging sees a problem with a Wikipedia article, he or she clearly labels the problem with the appropriate tag. As needed he or she then leaves information clarifying what should be done on the talk page. The outcome is a communication protocol that minimizes the use of reviewer's valuable time while maximizing the likelihood that the article's maintainers will improve the article.

We have to admit that many Wikipedia articles have serious problems which require painstakingly careful and time-consuming editing to fix, and which render their content quite unreliable even for the most error-tolerant applications. It is necessary to clearly tag such articles, preferably with a shrill color, until someone comes along who has both the time, inclination and domain expertise to carefully edit the article and solve its most pressing problem. For example, if an article relies heavily on unreliable sources, then readers need to be alerted to that fact, until an editor can introduce more reliable sources, such as academic journals.

It is much easier and less time-consuming for an experienced Wikipedian to identify and label an article's problem than it is to actually fix the problem.[note 1] But this is not to denigrate the importance of identifying and labeling problems. In fact, the identification and labeling step is often botched, resulting at best in a long delay until the problem is fixed, and at worst in an edit war in which several people revert the tagger, who refuses to explain the reason for the tag.

This essay will give advice about specific tags, but the general gist of it is this:

If you are going to put a tag on an article that proclaims it as seriously faulty, you should leave an explanation on the talk page of that article, even though the reasons seem plainly obvious to you.

In some cases, the explanation might be short enough to fit on an edit summary. Writing brief but complete edit summaries is always encouraged. However, it's still a good idea to include it on the talk page, preferably with a heading saying something like "Reason for grammar clean up tag (cleanup-grammar)." The problem with edit summaries is that after the tag is placed there could be a lot of edits to the article which don't address the concerns stated in the tag, making it hard to find the reason. By including the explanation on the talk page with a suitable heading, it becomes easier for others to find an explanation for the tag. Putting the reason in an HTML comment next to the tag is another available option, but it doesn't hurt to duplicate this on the talk page. In any case, it is quite possible for the tag to remain on the page for some time. If you would hope that the person trying to clean up the tag would contact you then it is easier to find you if you leave a message on the talk page than to have to trawl through the history to determine who you are.

Another important thing about the explanation: it needs to show to others that you actually read the specific article and you honestly believe it has the deficiency indicated by the tag, it shows that you're not just tagging on a whim. It also shows you did not just copy and paste from a similar explanation for a related article with the tag in question.

This essay is not about current events tags nor future tags, nor is it about deletion tags. The Articles for Deletion tag directs people to a separate page to ponder the reasons, while the proposed deletion tag requires a reason to be given within the tag itself. This essay will give fictionalized examples, but they are actually not exaggerations of the sort of thing that happens when an article's problem is incorrectly labeled.

## Contents

### A quick word about inline tags, like citation neededEdit

Inline tags such as the citation needed tags provide more context for future editors, but a quick word about them is in order since even these tags can create some of the issues associated with maintenance tags. Take this fictionalized example:

 In the third issue of 1998 of the Canadian Quarterly Journal of Integer Sequences, starting on page 347, Helmutz showed that the Schmuckelberg theorem can be extended to complex integers only if the Riemann hypothesis is true.[citation needed]

The person who placed this tag isn't completely wrong, but failed to notice that a citation is in fact given. Granted, it needs formatting (such as italics for the journal title), and a concluding page number, if available, but the citation needed tag is incorrect. A "refimprove" tag at the top of the page would make more sense.

Citation needed isn't the only inline tag available, there are a few others that are better suited for some situations.

 However, Taft said "I'll bet my life the Schmuckelberg theorem is false for complex integers."[This quote needs a citation] In his heavy book The Schmuckelberg Enigma, Smith writes that Taft independently came up with the Schmuckelberg theorem the same year as Schmuckelberg did.[page needed] Everyone agrees the Schmuckelberg does not hold under closure.[clarification needed]

## Clean up tagsEdit

### The catch-all clean up tag (cleanup)Edit

Example of template and article
A bronchial contuberance is a surgical operation in which a long, thin tube is inserted into the bronchial aperture and a reading is taken.[1] Since 2002, bronchial entuberances are preferred for patients with kidney conditions.[2] ...

This is of course a fictional example, so we're assuming that there really is such a surgical procedure. What's wrong with the article? There are no misspellings, no informal language, no off-topic digressions. The general clean up tag provides both a link to the talk page and a link to a list of more specific clean up tags. If you don't have the time to look at the more specific clean up tags, at least take a minute to write a few lines in the talk page as to what kind of clean up you think is necessary.

This tag used to have a link to help users find more specific clean up messages. For some reason, this has been removed, making it harder for responsible taggers to find the appropriate specific tag.

This has understandably sparked some annoyance, see Wikipedia:Clarify the cleanup.

### The confusing tag (confusing)Edit

Example of template and article
A tribble is a small, soft, furry animal from another planet. They eat grain. They reproduce very quickly. Klingons hate tribbles. ...

Without an explanation on the talk page, the {{confusing}} tag lacks any context and so only creates new confusion.[note 2] If you're going to put this tag on a talk page, you should try to explain what was it that you found so confusing:

• Were you confused because of a single statement in the article, or were you confused by the entire article?
• Were you confused because the article contradicts something in another article?
• Were you confused because you don't know anything whatsoever about the subject of the article?
• Were you confused because of an excessive use of technical terms or jargon?
• Were you confused because of an excessive use of mathematical formulas?
• Were you confused because of an excessive use of musical notation?
• Were you confused because of an excessive use of diagrams?
• Were you confused because of an excessive use of screenshots?
• Were you confused for some other reason altogether?

### The copyedit clean up tag (copyedit)Edit

Example of template and article
John Reedparrot (1753? - 1809?) was a British pirate, best known for commandeering Royal Navy ships. Reedparrot was the inspiration for the fictional character of Jack Parrot in Pirates of the Pacific 2: Destination California.
... [nine paragraphs omitted]
in 1953, a plaq was found in Hawaiii wit teh inscription "j. reedparrot here lies, but alas, wihtout his tresure!" this has led historiands to speclate that reedparot went to hawai to dei, andnot California as msot biograhpers wrote. furtermore, and withuot belaboring the point, it appears in 1960 wit digging up of teh hms chloroform a reasesssment is needed of reedparrot's reptation.
... [ten paragraphs omitted]
The Reedparrot Museum in New Jersey opened in 2004, to coincide with the release of Pirates of the Pacific: Talking Man's Curse.

In a few rare cases, it will be clear that the entire article is filled with misspellings and grammatical mistakes. But it will happen more often on Wikipedia, where many editors are not native English speakers, that the two or three offending paragraphs are buried somewhere in the middle of the article. So, given that the current wording of the tag is quite vague, it is necessary to provide more guidance as to what the problem is. In this example, then, one might say in the talk page something like "The spelling of the paragraph beginning "in 1953, a plaq was fuond..." is completely atrocious. The grammar seems to be OK, but the misspellings could be obscuring the grammatical problems." Or if an article's problem is grammar, and not spelling, then the talk page should say so. For example: "The final paragraph is one long run-on sentence. A few periods would help, and maybe we could even break that paragraph up into smaller paragraphs." This will allow a native English speaker to be bold and improve the article even if it is outside his area of expertise.

Even if the entire article is misspelled, it will be very useful to say it on the Talk page, since it will allow the next editor to inform the others of something like "I cleaned up the first two paragraphs but didn't have time to go through the rest of it."

### The incomplete tag (incomplete)Edit

Example of template and article
In mathematics, a Zhang-Glüffliger prime is a prime number satisfying the Zhang-Glüffliger inequality. There are only six Zhang-Glüffliger primes, meaning that the set of Zhang-Glüffliger primes is finite. 2 is the only even Zhang-Glüffliger prime, while 3 and 17 are the Zhang-Glüffliger primes to also be Fermat primes. 61 is the only Zhang-Glüffliger prime to satisfy the congruence ${\displaystyle p\equiv 1\mod 60}$ .

In 1965, John Zhang hypothesized on the finiteness of these primes. In 1982, Hans Glüffliger proved Zhang's hypothesis.

## ReferencesEdit

• J. Zhang, "On primes satisfying a special inequality" Can. J. of Prime Numbers
• H. Glüffliger, "On Zhang's primes" Petorian J. of Analytical Number Theory

You don't have to supply in the talk page what the article is missing, because then you might just as well complete the article. But you DO have to give a good, general idea of what it is you think is missing.

For the sake of keeping the example short, we have used a stub. In practice, it might be better to reserve the use of this tag for articles too long to be considered stubs yet still somehow incomplete.

In the example, you don't have to be a mathematician to be able to tell that the article states there are just six Zhang-Glüffliger yet only lists four: 2, 3, 17, 61. No reason is given as to why the fifth and sixth Zhang-Glüffliger are not listed, nor can we even be sure that none of 7, 11, 13 are Zhang-Glüffliger primes (not to mention 19, 23, 29, ... 59). Also, the article doesn't say what the Zhang-Glüffliger inequality is; presumably the journals cited can provide the answer. These are the kinds of issues a responsible tagger would raise on the talk page of an article he's tagged as incomplete.

Sometimes the tag applies just to a section. In that case, the syntax between the curly braces is "Incomplete|section|date=Month Year"

Another alternative is to use

{{Expand section|1=
* Career from 1952 to 1960
* Final days after 1972 retirement
|{{subst:DATE}}}}


which provide a more specific location of the issue and specifies what needs fixing in the main body of the article. This type of tag is self documenting and will get a result even faster.

### The rewrite tag (rewrite)Edit

Example of template and article
Archimedes of Troy (Ancient Greek: Ἀρχιμήδης) (c. 384 BC – c. 312 BC) was a Greek mathematician, and astronomer. Although few details of his life are known, he is regarded as one of the leading scientists in classical antiquity. Among his advances in astronomy are the foundation of a planetary measurement institute and the explanation of the principle of the retrograde. He is credited with designing innovative astrolabes, including one that bears his name. ...

The rewrite tag is frustratingly vague. Its canned text does not point to a specific problem (unlike copy edit tags like the grammar and spelling tags). The canned text also says that the Talk page "may contain suggestions." It better, or probably no one else will know why you tagged it. In our fictional example, the tagger put only the rewrite tag and no others, and the article had no other tags whatsoever. If someone removes a rewrite tag you place, you'd be very well advised to look for a more specific tag, instead of simply slapping the vague rewrite tag back on.

Before placing a rewrite tag, please look long and hard for a more suitable tag. If you honestly can't find one, then follow the canned text's link to the Talk page and leave a concise but detailed message explaining what in the article needs to be rewritten.

Example of template and article
A bronchial contuberance is a surgical operation in which a long, thin tube is inserted into the bronchial aperture and a reading is taken.[3] Since 2002, bronchial entuberances are preferred for patients with kidney conditions.[4] ...

## Tags calling for referencesEdit

### Unreferenced tag (unreferenced)Edit

Example of template and article
A bronchial entuberance is a surgical operation which replaces bronchial contuberancesor patients with kidney conditions. Bronchial contuberances have a 53% chance of success in patients with no other respiratory ailments,[citation needed] and is not at all recommended for patients with low blood calcium, as in indicated in Dr. Brown's study in the first 2005 issue of the Petorian Journal of Medicine. As with contuberances, local anesthesia is generally used to perform this procedure.

By placing an {{unreferenced}} tag on a page, you're representing that you have actually read the article and found no references whatsoever of any kind, including parenthetical references, general references and websites that actually support the article content, but that have been mis-labeled as external links. It is not enough to determine that the article lacks Wikipedia's most commonly used hyperlinked footnote citation format: you must have determined that there are zero citations in any format. If you don't actually have the time to read the article to make sure it really has no references, consider using a less severe references needed tag, or better yet, leaving it alone.

But let me be clear on one important point: while placing an unreferenced tag does not obligate you to find references for the article, it does obligate you to make an effort to point people in the right direction. You must think that references can be found for the article in question, even though you don't have the time to dig them up yourself right now. In the example, you might suggest "Try medical journals for surgeons." If you honestly think no one will be able to find any references to support this, then nominate the article for deletion. Don't waste people's time with requests you think are impossible to fulfill.

### Additional references needed tag (refimprove)Edit

Example of template and article
A bronchial contuberance is a surgical operation in which a long, thin tube is inserted into the bronchial aperture and a reading is taken.[5] Since 2002, bronchial entuberances are preferred for patients with kidney conditions. Bronchial contuberances have a 53% chance of success in patients with no other respiratory ailments,[citation needed] and is not at all recommended for pregnant women.[citation needed] Local anesthesia is generally used to perform this procedure.[6]

It would of course be silly to place an "unreferenced" tag on this page. The talk page ought to give some kind of idea as to what additional references would be helpful. For example, "It would be nice to use references from journals other than the Petorian Journal of Medicine." If you have the time, you should also flag with citation needed tags one or two statements not supported by the references already in the article.

## Meta-information problemsEdit

### The uncategorized tag (uncategorized)Edit

Example of template and article
In mathematics, more specifically in number theory, a natural number n is a Jacobson-Lopez number if n = pq where p and q are distinct prime numbers congruent to 7 mod 8. That is p and q must be of the form 8t+7, for some integer t. This means that the factors of a Blum integer are Gaussian primes with no imaginary part.

Given n = pq a Jacobson-Lopez number, Qn the set of all quadratic residues modulo n, and aQn. Then:

• a has precisely four square roots modulo n, exactly one of which is also in Qn
• The unique square root of a in Qn is called the principle square root of a modulo n
• The function f: QnQn defined by f(x) = x2 mod n is a permutation. The inverse function of f is: f −1(x) = x((p-1)(q-1)+4)/8 mod n.[7]
• For every Jacobson-Lopez number n, -1 has a Jacobi symbol mod n of +1, although -1 is not a quadratic residue of n:
${\displaystyle \left({\frac {-1}{n}}\right)=\left({\frac {-1}{p}}\right)\left({\frac {-1}{q}}\right)=(-1)^{2}=1}$  ...

Experienced Wikipedians will probably have HotCat installed, and for them it usually just as quick to add at least a high level category as it is to tag an article as uncategorised. Ideally this tag should only be used by inexperienced editors, or when you don't have the foggiest idea what the article is about.

Suppose that you have no idea what the example is talking about. You could try clicking on one of the links. If you click on "Gaussian prime", you're taken to Gaussian integer; that article is categorized under Cyclotomic fields, Algebraic numbers, and Lattice points. So you're not sure if any of these categories apply to our example article, that's OK. By now you should have some idea that all this has something to do with math. In fact, the first line of our example says "In mathematics"! You should go ahead and put in "[[Category:Mathematics]]". This might be too general, and there is certainly a more precise category. But an overly broad category is much more helpful than some vague tag, because the overly broad category increases the chances that someone with knowledge of the broad topic will be able to categorize the article in a narrower category. With the uncategorized tag, it could be days before a more experienced Wikipedian categorizes it.

## Viewpoint problemsEdit

### Neutrality disputes (POV-check)Edit

Example of template and article
The Massachusetts infieffment act of 1993 reforms infieffment laws in the state and brings them into line with federal infieffment laws in the U. S. Code. Infieffment laws in the state have been in effect since colonial times. ...

The talk page should explain, to those unfamiliar with any of the sides in the argument, what the sides are and try to point to some neutral language that all sides might agree on.

### Globalization issues (globalize)Edit

Example of template and article
A zdroplaksczie is a pastry usually eaten on the 3rd Monday after Lent, generally filled with strawberry jelly. You can buy some from Mikolaj's on the way to LaGuardia, though the A & P supermarkets make decent zdroplaksczies. ...

Some topics just don't span the whole world. However, in some cases, the persons editing a particular article have focused entirely on one small corner of the globe to the exclusion of other parts of the world where the topic also applies. In such a case, one ought to leave on the talk page a list of places one thinks the topic might also apply (or if it's worldwide, say so). In our example, the writer seems to have limited himself to a Polish enclave in New York, ignoring the Eastern European country where these pastries were probably invented.

### In-universe (in-universe)Edit

Example of template and article
Joe Calcarone is a fictional villain in Gumbel 2 Gumbel: Beach Justice, a police drama on NBC the content of which is entirely fictional. Calcarone is recurring fictional character on the show, and the first-season episodes with him in them showed ratings higher than those of other episodes.[8] The fictional character of Calcarone is played by the actor Roberto Mazzetti, who was cast in the rôle after the show's creator saw him in a New York pizza stand. According to the back story of the show, Calcarone went to college and at first did not want to join the family business. The second season story arc for the fictional character has him rethinking his decision to join the family business. The show's writers have remained silent on third season developments for the fictional character. Did we forget to mention that Joe Calcarone is fictional?

The tagger refuses to explain the tag on the talk page, and the other contributors are tripping over themselves to point out that Joe Calcarone is fictional so that no one could possibly miss this fact. What would it take to satisfy the tagger? The other contributors have no idea.

### Original research (original research)Edit

Example of template and article
Bronchial contuberances were first studied by Dr. Hartman at Quahog Hospital. Dr. Hartman published his findings in the Rhode Island Journal of Pediatrics.

How's this original research? The talk page might explain that the author of the article has "DrHartMan" for his username, or that there is in fact no such journal as the RIJP. (In the latter case, there might be a better template, I think.)

### "Resembles a fan site" (fansite)Edit

Example of template and article
Joe Calcarone is a fictional villain in Gumbel 2 Gumbel: Beach Justice, a police drama on NBC. Calcarone is recurring character on the show, and the first-season episodes with him in them showed ratings higher than those of other episodes.[9] The fictional character of Calcarone is played by the very sexy actor Roberto Mazzetti, who was cast in the rôle after the show's creator saw him in a New York pizza stand. According to the back story of the show, Calcarone went to college and at first did not want to join the family business. The second season story arc has him rethinking his decision to join the family business. The show's writers have remained silent on third season developments for the character. Mazzetti told reporters that he looks forward to returning to the show next season.

#### Episodes Calcarone has appeared in so farEdit

1. "Public Affairs,"
2. "Sinful Angels,"
4. "Diary of a New Jersey Priest,"
5. "Escaped Man,"
6. "Pickpockets,"
7. "Joan's Trial,"
8. "Gentlewomen Callers,"
9. "Lancelot of Lake Tear of the Clouds,"
10. "Probably Devils," and
11. "L'Argentina."

Another vague tag. This tag is typically slammed on with in-universe and original research tags, and for the tag slammer it is enough to see that the article is long to not bother checking whether the article really does contain "excessive trivia and irrelevant praise, criticism, lists and collections of links."

Even good people with good intentions sometimes use this tag. But the problem is that there is great diversity to fan sites, and likewise there is great diversity to the stereotypes about fan sites. Some fan sites are filled with "irrelevant praise" but have very little data, trivial or not. Other fan sites are filled with several different (but very similar) pictures of a particular character but hardly have any words of praise. Some fan sites with lots of text have a lot of misspelled words. A person with good intentions might only read the boldfaced part of the tag, and, satisfied that the article in question fits their own particular stereotype of what a fan site is, does not bother to explain it. Someone else comes along, and the article does not fit their stereotype, so they remove the tag and whatever problem the person with good intentions thought the article had could very well be lost to obscurity.

So before placing this tag, ask yourself: Is there a better, more specific tag? Or is there something I could do right now to fix the problem which would only take me a couple of minutes? If the article has way too many pictures that convey very little addition information about the topic, why not just remove some of them? If the article has lots of misspellings, why not put a copyedit tag on?

In our example, the tagger had good intentions. Prompted by the words "very sexy actor" they put on the fan site tag. The tagger was actually not bothered by the list of episodes Calcarone has appeared in (and the tag now says something about "lists"). So the tagger would have saved everyone a lot of confusion by simply removing the words "very sexy".

## Tag placementEdit

Tags should be placed at the top of the section to which they apply. Tags that apply to an entire article may be placed at either the top or the bottom of the article (uncategorised is normally at the end, where the categories would be). But if a tag applies to more than one, but not all, the sections of the article, it's a judgment call. Whatever call you make, you should explain how you made that call in the talk page.

## The multiple issues tag (multiple issues)Edit

It is possible for one article to have several different things wrong with it. The problem with putting an individual tag for each of these problems is that the lead line of the article is pushed way down (and perhaps off) the screen, and then it looks like tag bombing even if that wasn't the intention.

For those cases there is the multiple issues tag, an umbrella tag under which several different tags can be brought together under one box. Theoretically, this tag should be used when an article has two or more different issues, but technically it can be used when an article has only one or even no issues. However, just because this tag takes up less space than several individual tags doesn't mean one shouldn't carefully select the tags that would be most helpful to other editors.

Example of template and article
Joe Calcarone is a the fictional villain in Gumbel 2 Gumbel: Beach Justice, a police drama on Channel 5. He one scary dude, if I saw him in my neighborhood I'd run the other way. Calcarone is recurrng character on the show, and the first-season episodes with him in them showed ratings higher than those of other episodes.[10] The fictional character of Calcarone is played by the very sexy actor Roberto Mazzetti, who was cast in the rôle after the shows creator saw him in a New York pizza stand. According to the back story of the show, Calcarone went to college and at first did not want to join the family business, haven't we all been there? The second season story arc has him rethinking his decision to join the family business. The show's writers have remained silent on third season developments for the character. Mazzetti told reporters that he looks forward to returning to the show next season.

## Articles that should just be deletedEdit

The tags discussed above should be used if the tagger believes the article could actually be improved if the deficiencies listed were addressed. But if the tagger honestly believes the article can't be improved at all and doesn't even belong in Wikipedia, then it is better to nominate the article for deletion.

## Non-pejorative tagsEdit

Not all tags mean that there is something wrong with a page, just some important difference readers need to be aware of. Even though these tags don't indicate a problem and their misapplication probably wouldn't cause edit wars, one is still responsible for choosing the most specific tag applicable and explaining borderline cases.

### Time-sensitive tagsEdit

Future events. Most predicted or scheduled events usually happen, though rarely exactly as forecast or planned. Examples include: solar eclipses, hurricanes, parliamentary elections, championship games. Readers need to be aware who predicted or planned the event and that the information in the article will most likely change once the event actually happens. See Category:Temporal templates to find the template that is best suited for the future event article at hand. Once it is verified that the event is actually happening, or happened, the future tag should be removed. Tags for future events have been deprecated. They could be restored in the future.

Current events. When an event is in progress, there might be some lag in reporting what is going on, so readers need to be aware that more complete information could surface in the very near future. Note that not all types of events having future tags have current tags, especially events that don't last for very long (for example, the airing of a new half-hour episode of a popular television show).

### Permanent tagsEdit

There are no permanent tags for articles, but there are permanent tags for talk pages, project pages, category listings, etc. The essay tag at the top of this article is one example of a tag that should stay on the page permanently.

The opposite of responsible tagging is of course irresponsible tagging. There are at least two irresponsible tagging techniques.

### Timed mass harassmentEdit

With this technique, an irresponsible tagger waits for a time recent change patrollers are unlikely to be logged on to bombard several dozen pages pertaining to a particular topic with the same tag. That way, when the recent change patrollers get around to it, they might perhaps give up in frustration and not try to do anything to address the problem the several dozen pages allegedly have.

### Tag slammingEdit

A responsible tagger would read each page before applying any tags, and then leave on the talk page a message that shows that he or she indeed read the page, honestly believes it applies, and is not acting under a whim or worse, in a sinister plot to wear down those who disagree with him. The tag slammer, by contrast, does not read a page before applying tags and he or she certainly does not read what the many tags say. Some tag slammers need only very slim justification for the tags they choose so that others will, in seeing that the tag holds some amount of merit, will not remove it. Other tag slammers merely slam every tag they can think of. Tag slammers are somewhat easier to deal with than timed mass harassers. Even if there have been legitimate edits by others besides the tag slammer since the large groups of tags was slammed on, removing the slammed tags is fairly easy because most tag slammers like to slam the tags at the very top of the page.

## NotesEdit

1. ^ This stems from an information asymmetry between experienced editors who lack fact but can identify problems, and domain experts who know the material but are uninformed about editing.
2. ^ A domain expert may know so much more than the average reader that he or she may create an article that is simply unintelligible to the average reader. By stating the source of confusion it is possible to elicit from the domain expert an article that is more useful to general readers.
1. ^ Example reference goes here
2. ^ Example reference goes here
3. ^ Example reference goes here
4. ^ Example reference goes here
5. ^ Example reference goes here
6. ^ Example reference goes here
7. ^ John Jacobson, "On Lopez numbers"
8. ^ Sample reference goes here.
9. ^ Sample reference goes here.
10. ^ Sample reference goes here.